Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Gómez Díaz, J. A., A. Lira-Noriega, and F. Villalobos. 2023. Expanding protected areas in a Neotropical hotspot. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology: 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504509.2022.2163717

The region of central Veracruz is considered a biodiversity hotspot due to its high species richness and environmental heterogeneity, but only 2% of this region is currently protected. This study aimed to assess the current protected area system’s effectiveness and to identify priority conservation areas for expanding the existing protected area system. We used the distribution models of 1186 species from three kingdoms (Animalia, Plantae, and Fungi) together with ZONATION software, a conservation planning tool, to determine areas that could help expand the current network of protected areas. We applied three different parametrizations (including only species, using the boundary quality penalty, and using corridor connectivity). We found that protecting an additional 15% of the area would increase, between 16.2% and 19.3%, the protection of the distribution area of all species. We propose that the regions with a consensus of the three parametrizations should be declared as new protected areas to expand 374 km2 to the 216 km2 already protected. Doing so would double the protected surface in central Veracruz. The priority areas identified in this study have more species richness, carbon stock values, natural vegetation cover, and less human impact index than the existing protected areas. If our identified priority areas are declared protected, we could expect a future recovery of endangered species populations for Veracruz. The proposed new protected areas are planned and designed as corridors connecting currently isolated protected areas to promote biodiversity protection.

Ralimanana, H., A. L. Perrigo, R. J. Smith, J. S. Borrell, S. Faurby, M. T. Rajaonah, T. Randriamboavonjy, et al. 2022. Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity: Threats and opportunities. Science 378. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.adf1466

Madagascar’s unique biota is heavily affected by human activity and is under intense threat. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the conservation status of Madagascar’s terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by presenting data and analyses on documented and predicted species-level conservation statuses, the most prevalent and relevant threats, ex situ collections and programs, and the coverage and comprehensiveness of protected areas. The existing terrestrial protected area network in Madagascar covers 10.4% of its land area and includes at least part of the range of the majority of described native species of vertebrates with known distributions (97.1% of freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals combined) and plants (67.7%). The overall figures are higher for threatened species (97.7% of threatened vertebrates and 79.6% of threatened plants occurring within at least one protected area). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments and Bayesian neural network analyses for plants identify overexploitation of biological resources and unsustainable agriculture as the most prominent threats to biodiversity. We highlight five opportunities for action at multiple levels to ensure that conservation and ecological restoration objectives, programs, and activities take account of complex underlying and interacting factors and produce tangible benefits for the biodiversity and people of Madagascar.

Gainsbury, A. M., E. G. Santos, and H. Wiederhecker. 2022. Does urbanization impact terrestrial vertebrate ectotherms across a biodiversity hotspot? Science of The Total Environment 835: 155446. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155446

Urbanization is increasing at an alarming rate altering biodiversity. As urban areas sprawl, it is vital to understand the effects of urbanization on biodiversity. Florida is ideal for this research; it has many reptile species and has experienced multiple anthropogenic impacts. Herein, we aim to evaluate human impacts on registered reptile richness across an urbanization gradient in Florida. The expectation is that highly urbanized areas would harbor a lower number of species. To represent urbanization, we used Venter et al. (2016) human footprint index. We downloaded georeferenced occurrence records from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to collate species richness. We ran generalized linear regressions controlling for spatial autocorrelation structure to test the association between urbanization and reptile records across Florida. We found a positive association between urbanization and registered reptiles across Florida for total and non-native species richness; however, a lack of association occurred for native species. We performed rarefaction curves due to an inherent bias of citizen science data. The positive association was supported for non-native reptile species richness with greater species richness located at urban centers. Interestingly, total and native species richness were largest at low as well as moderate levels of urbanization. Thus, moderately urbanized areas may have the potential to harbor a similar number of reptile species compared to areas with low urbanization. Nevertheless, a difference exists in sample completeness between the urbanization categories. Thus, a more systematic monitoring of reptile species across an urbanization gradient, not only focusing on urban and wild areas but also including moderate levels of urbanization, is needed to provide informed conservation strategies for urban development planning. Advances in environmental sensors, environmental DNA, and citizen science outreach are necessary to implement if we are to effectively monitor biodiversity at the accelerated rate of urbanization.

Espindola, S., E. Vázquez‐Domínguez, M. Nakamura, L. Osorio‐Olvera, E. Martínez‐Meyer, E. A. Myers, I. Overcast, et al. 2022. Complex genetic patterns and distribution limits mediated by native congeners of the worldwide invasive red‐eared slider turtle. Molecular Ecology 31: 1766–1782. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16356

Non-native (invasive) species offer a unique opportunity to study the geographical distribution and range limits of species, wherein the evolutionary change driven by interspecific interactions between native and non-native closely related species is a key component. The red-eared slider turtle, Tra…

Chollett, I., and D. R. Robertson. 2020. Comparing biodiversity databases: Greater Caribbean reef fishes as a case study. Fish and Fisheries 21: 1195–1212. https://doi.org/10.1111/faf.12497

There is a widespread need for reliable biodiversity databases for science and conservation. Among the many public databases available, we lack guidance as to how their data quality varies. Here, we compare species distribution data for a well known regional reef fish fauna extracted from five globa…

Carrasco, J., V. Price, V. Tulloch, and M. Mills. 2020. Selecting priority areas for the conservation of endemic trees species and their ecosystems in Madagascar considering both conservation value and vulnerability to human pressure. Biodiversity and Conservation 29: 1841–1854. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-01947-1

Madagascar is one of the most biodiverse countries in Africa, due to its level of endemism and species diversity. However, the pressure of human activities threatens the last patches of natural vegetation in the country and conservation decisions are undertaken with limited data availability. In thi…

Smith, J. A., A. L. Benson, Y. Chen, S. A. Yamada, and M. C. Mims. 2020. The power, potential, and pitfalls of open access biodiversity data in range size assessments: Lessons from the fishes. Ecological Indicators 110: 105896. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2019.105896

Geographic rarity is a driver of a species’ intrinsic risk of extinction. It encompasses multiple key components including range size, which is one of the most commonly measured estimates of geographic rarity. Range size estimates are often used to prioritize conservation efforts when there are mult…

Karger, D. N., M. Kessler, O. Conrad, P. Weigelt, H. Kreft, C. König, and N. E. Zimmermann. 2019. Why tree lines are lower on islands—Climatic and biogeographic effects hold the answer J. Grytnes [ed.],. Global Ecology and Biogeography 28: 839–850. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.12897

Aim: To determine the global position of tree line isotherms, compare it with observed local tree limits on islands and mainlands, and disentangle the potential drivers of a difference between tree line and local tree limit. Location: Global. Time period: 1979–2013. Major taxa studied: Trees. Method…

Park, D. S., and O. H. Razafindratsima. 2018. Anthropogenic threats can have cascading homogenizing effects on the phylogenetic and functional diversity of tropical ecosystems. Ecography 42: 148–161. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.03825

Determining the mechanisms that underlie species distributions and assemblages is necessary to effectively preserve biodiversity. This cannot be accomplished by examining a single taxonomic group, as communities comprise a plethora of interactions across species and trophic levels. Here, we examine …